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Lyndale Blog - February 2020

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Story to Tell

What I am about to write about kept me occupied in a way that I really did not need. A fact you will understand when I say that later today I fly to Berlin to spend a few days with my daughter and son-in-law (who are about to produce our first grandchild), before travelling on to the IPM Essen Show. So ponder the above on top of the story to follow and all that is entailed in being away for a while, and you will realise how sweet it will feel when the plane doors close later today.

This relatively short saga began when we imported a hybrid fern without having a clear understanding of who the two contributors to the hybrid cross were.

Asplenium difforme x dimorphum, was the subject matter. Asplenium dimorphum is on the PBI (Plant Biosecurity Index) meaning it is noted as existing in the country and that there is a good chance you can import it.

We knew that parent, but prior to sighting the phytosanitary certificate we had not been aware of the difforme part of the hybrid. We did think the documentation would show x dimorphum with parentage so confused over time like so many of the cultivated genera we grow that it would be an acceptable discussion point at the border.

(Spoiler alert. I have been writing about this sort of stuff for the last 20 years so if you are sick of hearing about issues with our PBI skip to the Kind regards from the Lyndale Team now).

Meanwhile back at the border, we know we have a problem, which we solve in the short term by suggesting the plants are released into our PEQ (Post Entry Quarantine) to hold while we argue a case that these plants (difforme) are:
   1/ synonymous with a variety on the PBI.
   2/ already here and as a hybrid fern will be sterile.

The second part of the argument is well documented by one of the worlds recognised fern experts, who works out of Te Papa (but is on holiday).

The first part of the argument also requires expert opinion and in fairness MPI were keen to pursue this in house to support our case after they had allowed the plants to be held in our PEQ.


Asplenium difforme x dimorphum

The villain - Asplenium difforme
... native to Sydney region

Plant Biosecurity Index


MPI had by about day 2 learnt from their in-house experts plus consultation with Landcare and Te Papa experts that there was no synonymous favourable listing on the PBI, and were probably regretting their decision to release the plants into PEQ.

Once we got to this point, an application to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for a rapid assessment of a new to NZ organism was on the cards. As it was reasonably well documented that hybrid ferns are thought to be sterile this seemed possible, especially with NZPPI offering expert guidance through the application process.

BUT the cold hard reality of dealing with EPA came to the surface pretty quickly and we faced a bill of approx. $27k if we wanted to continue.

In brief, we lost. However, following is a letter I wrote which I would like to share. Names omitted.

"Thanks for your assistance, but we have run out of wriggle room.
There is no synonym for Asplenium difforme on the PBI.

For your information, EPA have indicated that there is not a case for rapid assessment and a full application for the species difforme would be required at an estimated cost of $27,000, plus then the hurdle of the required MPI risk assessment.

All this adds up to my strongly held view that we need a position to be created in the plant import space of The Chief Officer of Common Sense.

While this current example is not going to hurt anyone other than a minor hit to our bank balance, the situation is systematic of how NZ Inc is losing its once enviable position of leaders in horticultural innovation.

We no longer have access to the rough "building blocks" to create the next boom effect like the Kiwifruit story.

We are now reduced to being market followers as our PEQ systems are backlogged with overseas crop breeding initiatives, which at best will be 7 to 8 years old before they produce crops which can be sold out of NZ, competing in a market place that has had the innovation for 7 years already. Or more likely the overseas crop freshly out of quarantine does not do well in our very specific climate that we enjoy in Aotearoa NZ.

Who loses here, is not the baby boomers, but the subsequent generations that need to keep NZ economy buoyant.

Horticultural innovation was one of our key strengths, BUT under the HSNO and Biosecurity Act, the tools needed for this innovation, have been locked up and removed from us, that are capable of making something of them.

I believe MPI have the people and the ability to make this argument to their political masters, and to live up to the "support commerce" part of their mandate. I look forward to assisting you in any way I can to achieve this outcome."

So that was that. Plant destroyed, let's move on to the next thing. The sun continues to shine and 2020 is looking good. Keep up the good fight.

Though if anyone knows of Asplenium difforme occurring in NZ, please contact us. We will respect your anonymity if required.

Kind regards
The Lyndale Team


Lyndale Nurseries

Post PO Box 81 022, Whenuapai, Auckland
Street 82 Trig Rd, Whenuapai, Auckland
Phone 09 416 8482
Fax 09 416 9268
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